It’s fitting that Kacey Musgraves launched her latest with its understated title track. At just over three minutes long and opening her eagerly-anticipated follow-up to the GRAMMY-winning ‘Golden Hour’, it sets the scene for a record that unfurls the breakdown of her marriage. Laying out the album’s theme, it also nods to Kacey’s increasingly unique position in pop. Much like its predecessor, ‘star-crossed’ takes the storytelling of her country roots and presents it with pop grandeur. Yet unlike ‘Golden Hour’, it sets a darker tone.
Kacey’s journey to this point has travelled various paths, shaking up the Nashville scene with debut ‘Same Trailer Different Park’. 2015’s ‘Pageant Material’ began to blur boundaries, finding itself on a number of end-of-year lists outside of her traditional genre. Led by the energetic ‘High Horse’, ‘Golden Hour’ cemented her wider appeal. Although ‘star-crossed’ presents itself as a gentler listen, it continues this drive to disrupt convention. Despite its steady tempo, it learns from retrospective and contemporary pop to explore new directions. In tone, it pulls together both of her worlds with ease.
It provides the space for Kacey’s personal storytelling; the record deliberately split into three chapters. ‘star-crossed’ mirrors the pain of a breakup, from turbulence through heartbreak to hope and self-acceptance. It’s here where she fully embraces Nashville storytelling. Far from spinning distant, third-person tales, each track feels incredibly personal. All who have suffered heartbreak will associate with the emptiness of ‘Hookup Scene’, before being hit with the final four empowering notions. Even if the message might be built on cliche, in Kacey Musgraves’ delivery there really is a light at the end of the tunnel.
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